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Saturday, July 20

Gapers Block

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With the destruction of the Illinois Republican Party on Tuesday and their not unexpected counterintuitive reaction ("We should get more conservative!"), Chicago and its inner-ring suburbs will begin to provide all of the state's leadership and public policy guidance — and Illinois could become a model for the rest of the nation.

Last Tuesday, we celebrated as the Democratic Party swept to power nationally in a wave of disaffection with the culture of corruption in Washington and fatigue with the conservative agenda that has not delivered for the American people.

The night before, at the Plumbers' union hall, the stage was absolutely packed with Democrats; more Democrats than had been seen together in one place since — well, I can't recollect so many Democrats in so confined a space. There were a lot of Democrats, is what I'm trying to tell you. It was a unity rally to signify to base Democratic voters that the party was united and nobody should be splitting their ticket — the concern was that a lot of Democrats would cast protest votes against Todd Stroger. Stroger's primary opponent, Forrest Claypool, had done the Party no favors by spitefully announcing he wouldn't be voting for the former Cook County Board President's son. Progressive darlings like Jan Schakowsky, Barack Obama and Dick Durbin joined with Cook County Regular stalwarts like Mayor Daley, his brother Commissioner John Daley and state Representative Marlow Colvin. The Mayor jokingly mentioned Congressman Luis Gutierrez, also present, as being one of the best members of Congress and saying that he hoped Luis stayed in Washington (this got a big laugh, especially from Rep. Gutierrez). They all talked about "winning for working families" (a cliché just slightly better than Rod Blagojevich's asinine "getting things done for people").

As we in the audience watched the assembled group talk about Democratic values and the "Bush Republican" running against Todd Stroger (i.e., Tony Peraica), and enjoyed the adorable children's choir that performed, my mind was not on the national Democrats but rather on the Illinois party and just how badly they'd beat the GOP. My thinking was that if GOP nominee scored anywhere in the thirties, the Illinois Republicans would be toast, essentially a third party.

As it happened, Judy barely managed 40 percent, and the rest of the ticket was massacred, essentially wiping out the Republican bench. State Senators Dan Rutherford, Carole Pankau and Christine Radogno, DuPage state's attorney Joe Birkett, and of course Republican statewide office holder Judy Baar Topinka's political careers were basically deflated, leaving the Republicans with no serious, high-profile politicians to lead serious opposition to the Democratic Party. In fact, the Republicans are considering installing eccentric, ultra-conservative Rockford area state Senator Davy Syverson in as Minority Leader.

And the Democrats will finally have a chance to give the nation an example of what it looks like when progressive Democrats are in control.

Becase the Democrats also seized a veto-proof majority in the state Senate, putting Senate President Emil Jones (who is based out of the South Side and South Suburbs) in the enviable position of being basically a shadow governor.

Meanwhile, the Illinois Green Party managed 11 percent of the vote for Governor, ensuring them automatic ballot access. Expect the Greens to start occasionally seriously challenging Democratic state representatives in the city, à la the hippy parts of the Pacific Northwest.

There is reason to believe Senate President Jones will push for serious reform of education funding — a move that would likely require an increase in the state income tax, which is currently one of the lowest in the nation, and probably the corporate tax rate as well. Given that Blagojevich will likely not seek a third term, House and Senate Democrats will also pursue labor support to gain advantage in the 2010 primaries for statewide offices, which would more or less decide those races.

This means that the Democrats will actually have to start delivering for "working families" — and this means a decrease in the disparity of wealth, improved social services and protections, more and better health care for all Illinoisans, increased minimum wage, greater union density, an education system that provides for inner-city and far-flung rural kids just as well as for suburban kids, and common-sense environmental protections.

If the Democrats do raise taxes (a gambit that would require relief from property taxes) and quality of life improves without a serious net effect on jobs, the Republican parties in the rest of the upper Midwest will be in serious trouble. The GOP boogeyman — "Jobs Will Go To Neighboring States" — will finally be put to rest. Given that Illinoisans have summarily rejected every element of Republicanism — the party's conservatives, like Jim Oberweis, Dan Rutherford and Joe Birkett, have been trounced just as much as moderates like Radogno and Topinka — the Jobs Will Go To Neighboring States myth is basically all they have left. Without that, Illinois will become a political Bizarro Idaho — a one-party state with only the occasional flash of opposition.

Although some fret over Blagojevich's no-tax-increase pledge and his general unpopularity among Democratic legislators (they were so wary of him in the last budget process that they insisted he sign a "Memoranda of Understanding" with them before they'd promise their votes), this will in fact be helpful to the party. When one party so humiliates their hilariously bungling, inept opponent and proves them to be utterly incapable of success, extreme party discipline can become a hindrance to good government — too much of the policy flows unilaterally, often without real debate. But when a party has friendly factions — in this case, between good government progressives, "regular" Democratic progressives, and suburban and downstate moderates — good policy can emerge. In Illinois, we have the added advantage of a powerful, model city like Chicago providing the policy direction, though not without checks. This is a stark contrast to a state like Maryland, where Democratic control has not translated to much progressive legislation because the City of Baltimore is in such severe distress.

And if superstar Senator Barack Obama decides to stick around the Senate instead of running for president, he will be available over the next two years to use his star power to help the party push a real progressive agenda.

Though if he does run for president, the drubbing Illinos Democrats would hand Republicans in '08, with Obama at the top of the ticket, would be almost painful to watch. Almost.

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clompie / November 15, 2006 11:33 PM

so what happened to duckworth? i still cannot believe that roskam pulled that one off.
i don't think obama shouldrun for president or vice president either.
also, all those gop morons complaining that illinois will suffer without hastert as the speaker of the house need to realize hoe powerful durbin is going to be. last i read is that he is going to bethe number two democrat in the senate.

wwhht / November 16, 2006 7:42 AM

Of COURSE we'll suffer under Pelosi. She's from SAN FRANCISCO. You know what that means. She's an uber liberal lesbian military-hating whore who sleeps with terrorists. DUH.


About the Author(s)

Richard F. Carnahan is a true South Side Sox fan who's played a bit part in Chicago politics more than once over the years. Contact him at

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